NPR: Milo Miles

Milo Miles is Fresh Air's world-music and American-roots music critic. He is a former music editor of The Boston Phoenix.

Miles is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and he also writes about music for The Village Voice and The New York Times.

3:00pm

Tue June 3, 2014
Music

Golem Ain't Your Grandparents' Klezmer

The New York City band Golem describe their music as punk-klezmer. Music critic Milo Miles says that on the group's new album, Tanz, they mange to find new ways to balance urban irreverence with folk tradition.

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Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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3:47pm

Mon March 31, 2014
Music Reviews

Fight Sound With Sound: Grateful Dead's Arena Combat

Dave's Picks Volume 9 features a 1974 Grateful Dead concert played in Montana.
Courtesy of the artist

The same week that Neil Young introduced his Pono music player designed to spark a huge boost in audio fidelity, I listened for the first time to a recording of a Grateful Dead concert I attended almost 40 years ago. And I realized that passions about good-sounding music go through cycles. Today, the lo-fi medium is MP3s through earbuds.

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4:15pm

Thu February 6, 2014
Music Reviews

Before He Joined Congress, A South African Janitor's Disco Past

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 5:12 pm

Penny Penny.
Courtesy of the artist

The appearance of Penny Penny's Shaka Bundu in the American market is welcome not only in itself, but also as a sign of a larger trend. Five or six years ago, it was clear the music business was going into long-term sales decline, and I was certain that a prime victim of that would be African pop. The established imports of the '80s and '90s would be available as MP3 downloads, but surely new discoveries and reissues would slow to a trickle, if not cease altogether. I'm grateful that that has simply not happened.

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1:04pm

Mon November 25, 2013
Music Reviews

Will The Real Llewyn Davis Please Stand Up?

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 2:15 pm

Dave Van Ronk at the 1968 Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Diana Davies Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

2:17pm

Tue July 16, 2013
Music Reviews

Sylvester: 'Mighty Real' Disco Star Deserves A Modern Spotlight

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 4:29 pm

Sylvester's 1978 album Step II resulted in a couple of smash singles, "Dance (Disco Heat)" and "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)."
Fantasy Archives

10:48am

Thu May 30, 2013
Music Reviews

Festival Au Desert: Music Of Peace Not Silenced By War

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 9:20 am

Tartit performs at the Festival au Desert.
Chris Nolan Courtesy of the artist

Long ago, one of my college history professors hammered home a durable truth: "If you love art," she said, "you should hate war." Because some art is always among war's victims.

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12:02pm

Mon February 4, 2013
Music Reviews

Yo La Tengo: Decades In And Far From Fading

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 1:19 pm

Yo La Tengo's new album is titled Fade.
Carlie Armstron Courtesy of the artist

Yo La Tengo wouldn't seem to be very rock 'n' roll, given that it's a very stable and long-lasting operation. Since 1991, the lineup has consisted of a married couple — drummer Georgia Hubley and guitarist Ira Kaplan, along with bassist James McNew — and all three play additional instruments as needed. Yo La Tengo has been with the same label, Matador, since 1993. But if the band lacks rock dramatics, I would argue that it knows as much about the modes and manners of rock 'n' roll as anyone who has ever played the music.

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1:57pm

Wed December 19, 2012
Music Reviews

Tunes To 'Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard' To

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:32 pm

Music by guitarist Fields Ward appears in the new collection Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The first thing to note about the collection of old-timey music Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard is that it resulted from a record-discovery event that happens less and less often, and soon will likely never happen again. The music was recorded between 1923 and 1936. Most of the sides on the set are taken from 78s collected by the late Don Wahle of Louisville, Ky., and rescued from Dumpster destruction in 2010 by compiler Nathan Salsburg. Nineteen of the songs have never been reissued. Piles of moldy vinyl left behind by the deceased were once commonplace. No longer.

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12:34pm

Thu November 8, 2012
Music Reviews

Samuel Yirga Ushers In A Golden Age Of Ethiopian Music

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 12:09 pm

Samuel Yirga plays Ethiopian standards with a voracious talent that helps him savor each musical flavor.
Courtesy of the artist

Ethiopia enjoys a rich tradition of enticing music, filled with asymmetric rhythms set to a haunting, five-note scale and sly double-entendre lyrics in the Amharic language. It's a shame that, for Western listeners, a full, clear picture of Ethiopian music has been elusive.

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1:06pm

Tue September 25, 2012
Music Reviews

Analog Players Society: A Party Cooked Up In A Studio

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 1:58 pm

The Analog Players Society was assembled by a producer and percussionist in his mid-30s who calls himself Amon.
Courtesy of the artist

Albums made by collections of professional studio players once had a bad reputation with the traditional rock audience. Such works were supposedly arid and chilly — more like the results of a board meeting than the recorded adventure of an organic group of fabulous friends. Some music fans may still feel that way, but they are few. Nowadays, a tight-knit gaggle of session musicians like the Analog Players Society gets points from traditionalists simply because the music is made by flesh and blood.

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1:14pm

Tue July 31, 2012
Music

Boban i Marko Markovic: Irresistible Party Music

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar performs onstage in 2008.
Roger Kisby Getty Images

A dozen years ago, if someone told me that one of the liveliest, most inventive party albums of the year would come from a band originally associated with wedding celebrations and beer festivals, I would have been all, "Yeah, sure, you bet." If it was further explained that the band's roots were much closer to polka than rock, funk or hip-hop, I would have responded, "Don't push it." But nowadays, I'm familiar with the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar, whose retrospective Golden Horns will lighten the heart and lift the feet as surely as anything you'll hear in 2012.

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12:38pm

Thu June 7, 2012
Music Reviews

Paying Tribute To San Francisco DJ Cheb I Sabbah

Originally published on Sun June 10, 2012 8:53 am

Cheb i Sabbah.
Courtesy of the artist

Cheb i Sabbah's life traces an almost fairy-tale perfect path through the evolution of what's now called world music. Born in Algeria in 1947, he absorbed the Judeo-Arabic Andalusian music of his local culture before he joined the '60s rebellion and became a 17-year-old DJ playing soul 45s in Paris. By the end of the decade, he'd moved to New York and become friends with trumpeter Don Cherry, famous for his association with Ornette Coleman and a pioneer in the concept of multicultural music.

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12:45pm

Mon April 30, 2012
Music Reviews

A Sure-Footed Collection Of 'African Blues'

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 6:18 pm

I have to hand it to the Putumayo label. Since it started as a soundtrack-provider to a clothing store in the early '90s, the operation has placed racks of CDs with friendly-primitivist art by Nicola Heindl into Starbucks and Whole Foods everywhere. Putumayo is as responsible as anything for making music buyers ask "Where's the world music section?" in shops or online.

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11:04am

Thu April 19, 2012
Music Reviews

From Dominican Roots, Bachata Is Here To Stay

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 11:39 am

Joan Soriano.
Alicia Santistevan

8:22am

Thu March 1, 2012
Music Reviews

Hugh Masekela: Wedding Songs That Don't Sound Blue

Originally published on Tue March 27, 2012 8:50 am

Hugh Masekela.
courtesy of the artist

In 1968, Hugh Masekela was not quite 30 years old and though he was in exile from his homeland of South Africa, he seemed ready to become at home on the American jazz and pop markets. That summer, he had scored a number one single, "Grazing in the Grass." A year earlier, he'd been one of the few international performers at the 1967 Monterrey International Pop Festival and had appeared in its D.A. Pennebaker documentary. Yet strangely enough, over the next 45 years Masekela never quite found his sweet spot.

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12:09pm

Wed December 21, 2011
Music Reviews

El Rego: A Singer From Benin With Soul And Funk

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 12:16 pm

El Rego, the godfather of Benin funk, and his band The Commandos.
Courtesy of the artist

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the history of world music proves that unfamiliar instruments and rhythms cross borders much more readily than vocal styles. There's no question that, starting in the late '60s, soul and then funk became very popular in sub-Saharan Africa. Decades of reissues show that a lot of players found their way into electric guitar, and that enriching the big beat of the West was a cinch for African percussionists.

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11:00am

Fri November 25, 2011
Music Reviews

Iron Butterfly Stretches Its Wings On 'Fillmore East'

Iron Butterfly circa 1970.
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Before Led Zeppelin, there was Iron Butterfly — these days, a very misremembered band from Los Angeles. Maybe it was the movie industry all around, but '60s garage-rock in L.A. had an expansive, almost cinematic streak. Iron Butterfly was not the most inventive band on that scene, but it became the most famous because of a single, durable, out-of-nowhere hit, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." The song was 17 minutes long, and the proper thing to do on underground radio stations was the play the whole thing.

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4:13pm

Mon May 9, 2011
Music Reviews

Iggy Pop: A Punk Rocker Devoted To Imperfection

Shout Factory

I'm not presenting much of a consumer guide here. If you even think you would enjoy four CDs of unreleased Iggy Pop concert bootlegs — with dropouts, feedback and lots of flubbed notes — you don't need me to tell you about it.

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12:29pm

Tue April 26, 2011
Music Reviews

Bombino: High-Energy Sounds From 'Agadez,' Niger

The Tuareg people have lived in the Sahara desert of Western Africa for thousands of years. The harsh desert environment gets woven into those who can adapt to it. So the Tuareg have long been protective of their independent, nomadic-herder culture and society. But not unlike the European Roma, Tuaregs have a tense — occasionally violent — relationship with central governments. As with the Roma, the Tuareg's modern music has become a prime vehicle for both defiance and unification.

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